Newton Stewart Sub Aqua Club - BSAC branch 1853


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Under water you need to head out on a north westerly bearing. The bare cobble sea bed soon gives way to a band of  mermaid’s tresses, which in turn is followed by a dense kelp forest covering large boulders and rocky outcrops.  The kelp fronds are usually covered in a fine layer of silt and careful finning is required if visibility is to be maintained.  

Veering to the right a gap between the rock wall and a large boulder emerges and the bottom drops away to a depth of around 12 metres.  The kelp here has thinned and the sea bed is rocky but covered with silt.  Finning ahead you come to a large rock outcrop lying diagonally in front of you.  This has plumose anemones attached to it and is a good place to look for brown crabs.  

Emerging from the shelter of this outcrop you feel the current for the first time.  This is usually flowing from left to right if you entered the water around high water slack.  However the tidal streams in this bay are confused and contradictory because of the topography of the sea bed.  This is the usual half way stage in the dive and finds you at a depth of around 18 metres.  In front of you the flat sea bed stretches away into the bay and seems uninteresting.  However there are numerous rocky outcrops here which are covered in sea life and very scenic.  These are better dived from a boat when the current is of less concern.  To attempt to reach them on a shore dive would be difficult since the currents would prevent a return to your point of entry.  

If you try to retrace your steps from the previously mentioned rocky outcrop it is often difficult to return to the mouth of the cove where you started your dive as there are a number of rocky spurs stretching out from the western side of the cove forming similar shallowing entrances, which end in a rocky wall.  If you mistakenly end up in one of these dead ends the easiest thing is to ascend, re orientate yourself and dive down again to navigate back to the cove.  

An alternative to returning is to go with the tidal flow which will take you around the headland of the Isle.  This is an interesting dive with lots of under water canyons formed by the rocky spurs and outcrops from the Isle.  The current is not so strong if you stay close in to shore, however this can mean being side tracked into numerous dead ends.  If planned it is possible to circumnavigate the whole Isle and exit at the cove on the harbour side.  The difficult thing is to know when to bear right into the harbour entrance.  It is possible to exit on the rocks around the Isle but this does involve having to clamber out up steep slopes and is best avoided.  

The sea life around the Isle consists of the usual wrasse, Pollock and dogfish,  and occasionally octopus can be seen.


F. Screen Rocks - Depth 0 to 20m

Numerous vessels have come to grief on these treacherous rocks just to the South of the Isle of Whithorn.  The tidal stream and eddies here are strong which makes this very much a place for slack water dives.  More exploration is planned on this site to seek out what might be left of the various shipwrecks.


G. Devil’s Bridge - Depth 0 to 15m

This is an interesting site where a number of rock pinnacles stretch out from the base of the cliffs just to the east of Burrow Head.  Some of the larger ones are dry even at high water earning them the name of ‘The Isles of Burrow’, and they are inter-connected by rock bridges just below the surface.  The tidal stream is very strong here and at times it seems like a river running between the rocks.  However there is a slack period between 2 hours and half an hour before high water when the current disappears and diving is possible.  Depending on the wind the boat is best moored in the shallow area to the west of the rocks.  

During 2011 a small group of grey seals took up residence on the rocks, but whilst they were inquisitive of divers they never made close contact, disappearing in a cloud of silt when approached.  This site should only be dived when there is at least 5m visibility so that the various canyons and and gullies can be found and explored with ease.  It is best to start the dive by swimming on the surface to the main rock bridge before descending.  Go under the bridge to the cobbled seabed at 10m.  The view backwards shows the bridge outlined with sunlight behind, a good photo opportunity if you have a diver (or a seal) to model for you.  

You will now find yourself in a heavily tide scoured canyon, with actual rock mills in places, lying between the two main ridges of rock.  Heading away from the shore takes you deeper and on your right a gulley opens up which a diver can swim through.  The walls of this gulley are covered in encrusting sponges with large yellow hedgehog sponges and black tar sponges standing out.  On emerging from the gulley turn left and proceed anti clockwise around the large rock.  This brings you back to the cobbled canyon.  Ahead takes you round the other side of the rocks where an open boulder field is surrounded by rocky outcrops.  The boulders are covered by large numbers of common starfish and the rock walls with animal turf below the kelp forest.  This is the area where you will feel the ebb tide as it begins to run, however returning to the canyon gives you enough shelter to continue the dive.

Heading further out to sea from the canyon are many more pinnacles kelp covered on top with encrusting species below.  Here the fish life is more abundant as closer in the seals seem to have eaten most crustaceans and fish and the wrasse, pollack and sea bass that you do see seem particularly skittish.  However this outer area is much more exposed to the tidal stream and care needs to be taken here.  

If you head back up the canyon towards the shore you pass the gulley with Devil’s Bridge and as you get shallower other smaller canyons with rock bridges can be seen on your left.  The walls here are covered in gooseberry sea squirts, but the base of the walls are scoured clean.  In one of the larger rock mills at the top of the canyon we found large deposits of seal droppings.  You emerge in about 6m of water into a sheltered boulder field with large sandy patches.  The rocks here are covered with sugar kelp and red seaweeds and this is the best place to find wrasse, sea bass and pollack.


Below is a brief description of our scenic dive sites.  Scroll down to read more about specific sites E to G.  Some sites have additional information in the form of Seasearch reports.

SCENIC SITES II
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E.  Isle of Whithorn (Shore) - Depth 0 to 20m

Chapel Port East at the Isle of Whithorn is one of our principal shore dive sites.  Access is from the car park and there is a useful picnic table just up from the beach, which makes a good final kitting up station.

The cove is quite sheltered and the water depth drops to around 8 metres where it opens out into the bay.